Decor on display

If there is a crossroads of Christmas trees in Wichita, it has to be at the Festival of Trees benefiting Goodwill Industries, which will be open to the public this weekend at Century II.

The holiday display was coming together Tuesday on the promenade deck above Exhibition Hall — 47 trees being decorated by professionals and non-professionals, businesses and individuals, the young and the old.

The trees will be auctioned Friday night, with the proceeds going to the education and training programs of Goodwill. In past years the highest bidders have often donated the trees to other charities.

"I like that type of giving," said Beverly "B. Kay" Van Es as she decorated a tree with hand puppets she started making for the event back in February.

She said she met a woman at last year's festival who donated one of the tree's trimmings to the Salvation Army and the Wichita Children's Home. The woman told Van Es that she would bid on a tree made by her this year if it met two criteria: It wasn't traditional, and it was interesting.

So Van Es, known for making child-abuse-awareness yard signs, began decorating a tree that she hopes will go on to delight many children.

"I had more pleasure thinking of the joy kids would get out of this," said Van Es, even though she has no idea whether the woman will return to bid on her tree.

In the midst of the auction, which will take place at a sold-out event Friday night, are a flurry of activities including public viewings of the trees for $5 — extended to two days this year — along with entertainment, photos with Santa from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and decor seminars. There's also a sneak peek Thursday that costs $2.

"It keeps growing," said Gayle Goetz, who is in charge of the event. It started 17 or 18 years ago at the Bank of America building (then Bank IV) and expanded to CityArts, then to the Wichita Ice Center for the past two years.

"We grew again, so we're at Century II" this year, Goetz said. Donations were down about $10,000 last year from the $80,000 raised in 2008, and Goetz hopes for a rebound this year.

The trees include the feel-good — a snowman tree and a teddy-bear tree that are staples, decorated by Goodwill stores — and one done by Goodwill clients that features their silhouetted faces against wooden tree cut-outs.

Decorators also can get ideas from the designers: Tree toppers include crowns, garlands include rope, and florist Sherry Trivitt made what Goetz thought was the first scented tree of the festival — she put glue on the back of silk leaves and sprinkled it with a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.

Goddard High School has two trees: one featuring ornaments made by ceramics students, the other one with love and peace-sign ornaments crafted by the school's National Art Honor Society.

The Society of Women Engineers did a wine-themed tree featuring bead-studded corks as ornaments and ribbon-threaded corks as garland.

Michelle Loss, an on-air personality with the CW and KWCH, took a regular Christmas tree and was fashioning it into her own version of an upside-down one.

"It's going to be a tornado," she said amid silver lame and white tulle. The stations wanted to feature the weather this year, she said.

"By the end it's going to be a whirlwind," Loss said, "and everything's going to be swept up into the holidays, including Santa."